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Black Lives Matter Creates a Boom for Black-Owned Bookstores

Small shops selling mostly online are deluged with orders for books on racial issues.
Katrina Brooks

Katrina Brooks

Photographer: Julia Robinson for Bloomberg Businessweek

Katrina Brooks has a challenge most small business owners would envy: She’s working overtime to fulfill orders at Black Pearl Books in Austin. A year ago, when she started her company, which depends mostly on online sales, she expected she’d have time to build a customer base. She still thought so when pandemic lockdowns occurred in March, and local arts, school, and other events where Black Pearl operates pop-up stores were canceled.

Then came the Black Lives Matter protests after the police killing of George Floyd in late May. Suddenly, Black Pearl was deluged with orders for books by and about Blacks and other minorities—so many that Brooks closed her online store in July so she could tackle her backlog. She reopened in August and has relied on volunteers, friends, and family, including her mother, to help pack and ship books to customers while she strategizes for the future.